I’ve tried countless times to find a way to phrase or word how my ride into Bratislava went but I can’t seem a way to illustrate it perfectly. The ride was simple, besides falling once, I drank a beer at a windy shack next to a bike path, and I rode that bike path along the Danube and into Bratislava. I could go on with obnoxious examples of how I feel and how the beer was but I don’t think that brings anything new to the story that I haven’t spoken about prior so I’ve decided to omit all that.
The past two days had consisted of enduring and adapting. I finally was set to reach my destination and hopefully get some decent food and sleep.
Bratislave sits right on the Northern side of Danube where the river begins to bend south. I crossed the Apollo Bright, a tall road bridge that, compared to the backdrop of Bratislava Castle, makes it seem almost ultra modern. The two bridges, the Apollo and the SNP both cross from North to South and act as modern introductions into a city, balancing modern minimalism and 20th century Slavic architecture.
I found myself occasionally at the Eurovea Shopping Mall, which I passed on my way in, for both supplies and to get out of the streets and escape to something I was familiar with. The mall is encased in glass and from the outside looks like it could be an art museum or modern government building, yet the inside is just the same as all other shopping malls found in Western countries, with it rows of blocky retail spaces, the occasional food court, and a movie theatre. More than I was going to the mall and sitting on one of the many terraces overlooking the river and listening to the live music that would play on the riverbank. I never drank or ate as much as I should’ve during these things and because of that I became easily bored.
I walked a lot of the small old town part of the city. Where squares would be full of restaurants serving tourists overpriced Slovic dishes and views of a fountain and down alleyways into older quarters of the city where bricks crumbled along the wall while trod above loose cobblestone. Wooden walls would rose until they were torn apart with either construction or decay and would join in with the surrounding stone. This mostly all began in the Jewish Quarter which was forcefully segregated with walls and hidden alleys to be out of sit and mind.
The whole Quarter had an essence of tourism with its booths of locals selling organic matcha and iced coffee and others selling small trinkets to those who managed to walk by. Past the booths of vendors and tourists taking pictures, I would end in the small secluded alleyways thinking I was alone until a group of teenagres would scramble by and pass under a barrier and reappear above just moments later, walking on a dilapidated wall. They would then be seen going into one doorway and reappearing out another, sometimes bumping into one of them as I tried to find my way through the many little corridors.
Leaving the Jewish Quarter to the east would lead back to the statue of Roland’s Fountain surrounded by its bistro styled restaurants with outside seating and tour guides moving large groups of people back and forth, spitting out facts that may or may not have had any truth to them. A church sits to the north side of the square painted yellow against a wash of three to four story buildings, ornately painted yellow-gold or blue with molding below the windows that accented the floral window boxes similar to arrangements I would see in Paris. The restaurants sat patrons on large wicker chairs in tables in front of their establishments, sometimes with or without a covered seating area. The name was painted against the side of the building above the door making the restaurant seem old while the menu told another story of a cheaply made, yet costly to dine, restaurant that took advantage of those who wanted to overlook the fountain and eat or drink on something at the same time.
The road Špitálska, a few blocks away, combined cars, bikes, trams, people, animals, and possibly some other means of transportation that I did not notice. It happened to be what I needed to cross to, from, and to get anywhere else I needed from the hostel I was staying at. Eventually I developed a decent routine of looking both ways for cars, making sure no trams were coming, and then praying to whatever god wanted to listen so I would not be ran over. The buildings surrounding did not have the appeal of the fountain square in the Old Town. Instead they towered above stories in a blocky Soviet style. Older buildings still stood with Easter pastels immediately besides brown brick slabs covered in advertisements all while underneath the powerlines for trams covered the streets and climbed buildings like vines.
The Hostel was situated in this area, in a grey block style building that was much more appealing on the inside than it was on the outside. The windows overlooked parts of the city desirable and not so much. Luckily I had a view of Bratislava Castle that would remain illuminated as I tried to sleep while people moved in and out throughout the evening. Eventually I passed on my bunk.